Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse

Nowhere near enough charm in this Sweet Charity for my liking. Josie Rourke’s farewell to the Donmar Warehouse is grey rather than silver

“I’m always looking for an emotional experience”

When the light lands just right on Robert Jones’ set for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, it sparkles like silver; the rest of the time, it is rather grey. Sadly, that’s pretty much rather true as a whole for Josie Rourke’s production here, her farewell as Artistic Director here.

Those bright spots are dazzling. Debbie Kurup and Lizzie Connolly are superb as Charity’s pals and co-workers Helene and Nickie, dreaming their dreams with real circumspection. Martin Marquez’s velvety smoothness is charm personified as movie star Vittorio Vidal.

And Adrian Lester is a vision in silver sequins as a sensational Daddy Brubeck though taking Sondheim a little too much to heart. Rourke has employed a revolving list of guests to cover this cameo, a gimmick that may have been earned over her tenure but doesn’t feel necessary.

Then there’s Anne-Marie Duff as Charity herself. Her voice is something of a blunt weapon here, albeit one finessed by her undoubted acting talent. So she can goof appealingly through ‘If They Could See Me Now’ and match Arthur Darvill’s nerdish Oscar in ‘I’m The Bravest Individual’ as her indefatiguable spirit goes through a range of knocks.

But put her against the irrepressible vocals of Kurup and Connolly as in ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’ and you’re left wondering why you’d put someone who isn’t a bona fide musical theatre star in an iconic piece of musical theatre like this. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by seeing the likes of Gemma Sutton and Rebecca Trehearne in the role recently but this just didn’t work for me.

Jones’ design is rather effortful in its many parts and odd captions, and Wayne McGregor’s choreography relies a little too much on props (those stepladders…) to really make an impact (and I suppose it isn’t his fault Austin Powers has ruined 60’s style routines for me). Nowhere near enough charm in this Charity for my liking.

Running time:  2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Johan Persson
Sweet Charity is booking at the Donmar Warehouse until 8th June
NB: Adrian Lester will play the role of Daddy Brubeck from 15-27 April, Le Gateau Chocolat will play the role during the week beginning 29 April, Beverley Knight will play the role during the week beginning 6 May and Clive Rowe during the week beginning 13 May. Further casting will be announced soon.

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